From The Straits Times Archives: ISIS threat to South-east Asia

 Indonesian police ambulances pass the crowds carrying victims to the hospital after the bomb blast in front of a shopping mall in Jakarta, Indonesia, Jan 14, 2016.
Indonesian police ambulances pass the crowds carrying victims to the hospital after the bomb blast in front of a shopping mall in Jakarta, Indonesia, Jan 14, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

Although no group has claimed responsibility for the Jakarta blasts yet, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group had issued a cryptic warning before multiple blasts hit the Indonesian capital on Thursday (Jan 14), police said.

Indonesia has been on edge in recent weeks over the threat posed by Islamist militants and counter-terrorism police have launched a crackdown on people with suspected links to ISIS.

Thursday's attack also comes on the heels of recent warnings about ISIS seeking to increase its influence in South-east Asia.

We bring you some of the stories we have carried in The Straits Times on the recent warnings and the need to be vigilant:

MALAYSIA'S FIGHT AGAINST ISIS

News that two Malaysians killed 33 others in the Middle East in suicide bombing missions for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has again raised anxiety over the radicalisation of Muslims in Malaysia.

Malaysia's counter-terror intelligence acknowledges that most Malaysians joining ISIS are willing to die for the cause, as evidenced by the suicide bombers. The worry is that such determination will lead to an attack on Malaysian soil eventually, even if the authorities block off routes to the Middle East. It is thus crucial for Malaysia to have strong measures to choke off ISIS' social media influence.

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ISIS IN PHILIPPINES A THREAT TO REGION

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is likely to create branches in the Philippines and Indonesia this year.

ISIS is determined to declare at least one province in Asia in 2016, and an ISIS foothold will present far-reaching security implications for the stability and prosperity of a rising Asia.

Preparations to proclaim an ISIS branch in the southern Philippines reflect its growing influence in the region.

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GLOBAL EXPANSION ON THE CARDS FOR ISIS

With the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in June 2014, the world faced an unprecedented and an ever-expanding global threat. Throughout 2015, ISIS' operational capabilities and influence spread worldwide from its epicentre in Iraq and Syria.

In 2016, ISIS is likely to expand its reach to Africa and Asia, creating satellite provinces of the caliphate known as wilayats. These provinces will seek to implement the ISIS rule of beheadings, mass executions, destruction of historical sites and pillaging that the world witnessed in Iraq and Syria.

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DIFFERENT GROUPS, SAME TERROR AIM

The threat of terror attacks in Indonesia is clear and the government is taking it seriously. It is also using moderate Islamic organisations to campaign against violent ideology, among others.

But Indonesia still lacks tough anti-terrorism laws, such as those in Australia and France, that would give the authorities more room for preventive measures, such as preventive detentions for ISIS sympathisers.

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ISIS EYEING INDONESIA FOR 'DISTANT CALIPHATE'

The Islamic State group is working to boost its presence in Indonesia with dreams of creating a "distant caliphate" in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, Australia warned.

The Australian newspaper said that while Australian authorities believed there was little chance ISIS could create a caliphate within Indonesia, they were deeply worried the terror group may establish a permanent foothold in the archipelago.

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STAYING VIGILANT AGAINST THE THREAT OF ISIS

If 2014 was the year that terror group ISIS sent shockwaves around the world in declaring its self-styled caliphate, 2015 was the year Singaporeans were constantly reminded of the clear and present danger the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria poses.

Apart from global terror attacks that demonstrated the growing influence and reach of ISIS, and foiled plots targeting Malaysia's Parliament, social media postings this year identified Singapore as a possible target for attack.

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HOW MUCH OF A THREAT IS ISIS TO THE REGION?

With the emergence and growing influence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the threat of transnational terrorism erupting in the region has grown significantly over the past year.

Experts estimate that close to 30 groups from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have taken oaths of allegiance to ISIS over the past year.

While ISIS and its affiliates threaten to destabilise the entire region, Singapore faces an outsized risk for a number of reasons, say experts.

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COUNTERING THE ISIS THREAT TO SINGAPORE AND THE REGION

Some two years ago, a handful of radicals from South-east Asia made their way to Syria to join fellow hardliners in a civil war.

Their numbers grew. In September last year, about 100 fighters from Indonesia and Malaysia formed a combat unit, Katibah Nusantara. One year on, their numbers have grown to around 450.

How much of a threat does ISIS continue to pose and how has it evolved? What more can be done?

Lim Yan Liang examines the issues involved.

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ISIS SOCIAL MEDIA POST IN MAY CITES SINGAPORE AS POSSIBLE TARGET

Singapore has been identified as a possible target for attack by a recent Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) posting on social media, a report this week said.

ISIS supporters from the region have also cited the Philippines and the United States as targets, the report's author, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies analyst Jasminder Singh, told The Straits Times.

There are now more than 700 fighters from Indonesia and over 200 fighters from Malaysia fighting in Iraq and Syria, Mr Singh noted.

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